George Mason University – Department of Public & International Affairs
Melbourne Business School
University of Melbourne – Department of Psychology
November 9, 2008
IACM 21st Annual Conference Paper
A number of studies have shown that certain events that occur during a negotiation can alter its course. Referred to as turning points, these events are precipitated by actions taken either outside or inside the talks, having consequences for outcomes. This article reports the results of two experiments designed to examine the impacts of both types of precipitating actions. Focusing on external actions, the first experiment showed that crises – as opposed to breakthroughs – produced more agreements in the context of positive social climates (high trust, low power). Fewer agreements were achieved in negative social climates (low trust, high power). Focusing on internal actions, the second experiment showed that more cooperative precipitants (factors inducing change) were identified in positive social climates. Outcomes were also influenced by the climate: Positive climates – high trust, cooperate orientations – resulted in more agreements. In both experiments, the social climate mediated the effects of precipitating factors on negotiation outcomes. Perceptions of trust and power filter the way negotiators interpret actions that occur outside or are taken inside a negotiation, leading to agreements or impasses.